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Crooked Beauty: Navigating the line between brilliance and insanity

Ayla's picture

Mental health is a personal interest of mine - mainly because it is so personal to me, but also because I like to think that there is a connection between mental disorders and brilliance.  Newton, Michaelangelo, Nash, Einstein, Van Gogh, Aristotle - so many great minds in history who are thought to have had some sort of mental disorder (by studying their personal journals or historical accounts about their personalities).  As I said in class, I indulge in being part of a community of people who have the same mental disorder as I do.  It is my personal preference to dive into the idea that mental illness and intelligence are connected.  Very smart people come with baggage.


I watched this short (30 minute) documentary film about a young woman and her experience with bipolar disorder.  "Crooked Beauty: Navigating the line between brilliance and insanity" is a personal documentary in which the author, Jacks McNamara, advocates for people to live with their madness and use it as a tool for inspiration and creativity.  She specifically does not support allowing people to use their diagnosis as an excuse, or a burden reliever. She did not appreciate being medicated so that her 'radio transmitters' were shut down, and she more easily glanced over the world's suffering, instead of being so sensitive to it.


My own experience with being medicated speaks directly against Jacks' argument.  I have seen myself on and off medication, and I have not only swallowed my pride but I have completely digested it and dumped it about three years ago.  I like who I am when I am medicated, and I feel like I am constantly suffocating when I'm not.  Jacks suggests that I find a space and deal with being sensitive; she suggests I learn how to embrace my gift instead of medicating the symptoms of my mental illness.  I might get there one day, but for now I am not ready.


I was interested in her idea that mental illness is a gift.  She explains in her documentary how shaman became 'holy men' because they were thought to have some sort of higher power, or higher connection, to God.  She expresses that these men had to go through some sort of searching and mental devastation (as I understood it) before being allowed to be the holy man of the community.  Usually, the community could even determine which boys would be shaman when they were older because they were specifically different from the other children and they were clearly haunted by some mental terrors that no one else understood.


Her idea is very interesting and I suggest that everyone at least watch the trailer!